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Nutraceutical industry plays a role in India's quest for $10-bn GDP

India needs structural categorisation of nutraceutical sector in ministries, startup incubation hubs and regulatory framework to deliver world-class products in this space

Amit Srivastava, Chief Catalyst, Nutrify India

Amit Srivastava, Chief Catalyst, Nutrify India

Nutraceutical industry which is picking up in India slowly can contribute significantly in realising India's target to become a $10 trillion economy by 2030 if the right encouragement to strengthen the ecosystem is given, opines Amit Srivastava, Chief Catalyst, Nutrify India, a platform to create responsible nutrition businesses. Former CEO of Bio Valley Incubation Council at AP MedTech Zone, India's premier medical device manufacturing park coming up in Visakhapatnam, Srivastava, who is also promoting Nutrify India Campaign, is confident of growth of nutraceutical industry. In an exclusive interview to Bizz Buzz, he said quadruple of growth is certainly worth a praise, but the question is who would deliver these numbers. "About 840 million citizens are calorific sufficient but malnourished. Subjecting absolute majority of population to stress in order to achieve $10 trillion economy would open up the new unknown challenge of managing lifestyle diseases that would spiral up without much of controls. With the growing population, information access, increasing spend power, the emerging 'need' to stay healthy - the nutraceuticals in India is bound to have a robust growth for next few decades, he said

We are lacking enforcement: While FSSAI / Ayush continues to evolve in right direction; resource constraints and the vast area of food regulations, unlike in pharmaceuticals has kept regulators distant from effective enforcements. This has resulted in some nutraceutical/ayurveda companies indulging in deviated claims

For nutraceutical parks to evolve, it is important that State Governments have a vision and need to develop ecosystem. Telangana is taking huge steps in creating ecosystem for various components of healthcare including creating an incubation park for nutraceutical industry

What is the status of nutraceutical industry in India?

Scientific nutrition has always been an arborvitae of India since 3300 BCE. Ayurveda is one of the most scientific ancient text on clinical nutrition and preventive health nutrition. This science took a backseat due to chronic exposure of India to foreign invasions that disrupted its progress. Meanwhile, in the early 1900s, the western world had begun to witness the newly found gold rush for vitamania. The discovery series were motivated by the principles of pharmaceuticals leading to molecular reductionist approach coupled with clinical validation methodologies. The discoveries of those times evolved into convergence of allied fields like biotechnology, agrotech, chemical engineering, pharmaceutical technologies and principles; thus fueling the onset of nutraceuticals the newly formed discipline with relatively lesser known long-term health impact but commands a unified global support that interprets to $387 billion market.

Global nutraceutical market continues to grow at 8 per cent per annum with US commanding 60 per cent of the market share. Nutraceuticals is only going to get bigger with time as the want for preventive health turns into the need in current years. Nutraceutical sector is bound to be an integral part of any country's economic growth strategy.

How equipped is India to develop and deliver high quality, clinically validated nutraceuticals and what equity it has into the global market in the field of formulated products and ingredients?

Most of the Indian nutraceutical industry operates in cookie cutter model and has not evolved with times. India's exports in nutraceuticals is slightly below $1.5 billion (ingredients and formulation combined). That's negligible equity into the global nutraceuticals market of $387 billion. On other hand, India imports active ingredients and formulated nutraceuticals to the tune of $2.3 billion. India has 108 large contract manufacturers in nutraceuticals, but none is able to tap into international projects. For India to emerge as nutraceutical hub that delivers world-class high science nutraceutical products to serve the needs in India and also command a respectable share in the international nutraceutical market, it will need some structural categorisation in ministries, startup incubation hubs and regulatory framework.

What are main challenges faced in promoting Nutrify India Campaign?

Nutrify India has had a smooth start since its inception on February 5, 2020. It has emerged as the most coveted marketplace platform for nutra industry stakeholders. Nutrify India has made international presence felt and on its first birthday February 5, 2021, it got a new name: Nutrify Today. It will soon roll out series of services for the global nutra industry. It will now scale up in near future. There has been interests expressed from investment community to invest in Nutrify today.

The only challenge I see is the speed at which people are adopting digital options of conducting business. It is slow. This is a global phenomenon. The good news is the shift is happening. So, it's a matter of time. Nutrify Today is 'made in India' and is fast emerging as a platform that serves the world for promoting and commercialising Responsible Nutrition. The platform has top of the line advisory board from world over like Yoni Glickman, Sanjaya Mariwala, Anand, Eric Caston, etc. I only wish there could be government support too in building Nutrify Today platform to expedite growth and in turn expedite faster service to the industry.

What the stakeholders expect from the government?

In order to enable and empower nutraceutical industry, it needs to be incubated first and this would essentially mean centralised ownership. The most suited ownership would be with Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI). This would mean including the ecosystem active nutraceuticals ingredients, formulations, contract manufacturing, raw materials processing of nutraceuticals under it. MoFPI could create a sub-category as medical/health foods. Nutraceuticals is the other side of the coin named food/nutrition. Irrespective of its science, outcomes, it is still a food. Hence it would naturally fit into MoFPI. By creating a subcategory and incubating the industry under it would enable government to roll out industry specific focussed incentivisation programme.

There is need to include medical foods ecosystem into MoFPI, the component related to biodiversity laws in MoEF (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) and NBA (National Biodiversity Authority) could be managed under MoFPI ministry. This will stop Indian innovators using USA as the platform to launch their plant ingredient discoveries and help small to medium sized players ramp up business (which is currently curtailed by complexity of biodiversity laws).

We are also in favour of including medical foods/nutraceutical parks under PMKSY scheme of MoFPI, We need parks focused in strategic locations of India to enable entrepreneurs as well as larger players in nutraceuticals to take up research/ development lab complex, prototyping, testing, validation, common facilities (like blender farms, SCO2 facilities, spray drying, freeze drying, fermenters, etc) and market access. An initiative of MoFPI creating NIFTEM (National Institute of Food technology Entrepreneurship Management) is an appreciable first step towards fully evolved ecosystem park that seems to be a near future possibility now.

What do you think is lacking?

We are lacking enforcement: While FSSAI / Ayush continues to evolve in right direction; resource constraints and the vast area of food regulations, unlike in pharmaceuticals, has kept regulators distant from effective enforcements. This has resulted in some nutraceutical/syurveda companies indulging in deviated claims and practices bringing in loss of trust and disrespect to the industry.

Which State has taken lead in creating a vision for the promotion of the industry?

For nutraceutical parks to evolve, it is important that State Governments have vision and own up to host the ecosystem park. Telangana is taking huge steps in creating ecosystems for various components of healthcare including creating an incubation park for nutraceutical industry.

Are you happy with awareness level on patenting?

Awareness is negligible. People are learning out of accidents. There are two reasons for slow pick up viz. easy access to information and lackadaisical approach to patent. It's often not perceived as urgent in startup community. In 100 startup survey in nutra, 72 per cent were still planning to patent their work. The planning has no end date!

How do you see the future of Andhra Pradesh in general and Visakhapatnam in particular in R&D of nutraceuticals?

I am very bullish on the State of Andhra Pradesh and Vizag has potential to become nutraceutical hub of India. The reasons are strong pharma industry base, availability of trained manpower in pharma, phyto chemicals and food techs resources, port connectivity, proposed metropolis and IT hubs required for convergence technologies in Nutra. I had tried my best in my personal capacity to make Vizag the nutraceutical hub. I am still excited to do so. We have strong relation with education and research institutes in Vizag and support students by way of interns and employment. Some of the success stories in Vizag where Nutrify Today has added value are Nanoveda, Akrivis (Vizag), Esperer, EzeRx, Herbahive (Guntur), Sadgama Biosciences- Vizag. As Nutrify Today grows larger, we will do our bit to support Vizag in becoming the nutraceutical hub of India.

Santosh Patnaik
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